(7:37 a.m. EST) -- M/S Explorer, a 100-passenger expedition ship operated by Toronto-based G.A.P. Adventures, is sinking in the Antarctic, according to wire service reports. One hundred passengers, along with 54 crew members, evacuated in lifeboats in water reportedly as frigid as minus 5 Celsius (23 Fahrenheit).
According to BBC News, all passengers and crew have since been transferred from lifeboats to the Endeavor and the Nordnorge, ships that came from nearby to aid in the rescue effort. The captain and the chief officer remained onboard while everyone was evacuated; it's anticipated that the ship will sink.
At this point, the BBC is reporting that the ship, which has an ice-fortified hull, has hit ice. The M/S Explorer was cruising in the vicinity of King George Island in the Antarctic Ocean, near the South Shetland Islands.
G.A.P. Adventures operates the Explorer on cruises that typically include a nine-night voyage out of Ushuaia, Argentina's southernmost city. The ships spend time in Drake's Passage, the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands.
According to the company's Web site, "a voyage aboard G.A.P Adventures' M/S Explorer is an expedition in the truest sense of the word. Explorer goes where other ships cannot, where only a ship of her caliber could. At only 75 meters in length and equipped with an ice hardened double hull and a fleet of robust Zodiacs, she is a go-anywhere ship for the go-anywhere traveler. With a veteran crew of polar mariners and an experienced expedition team of marine and avian biologists, geologists, historians and naturalists, these adventures are voyages of discovery to the far reaches of the globe with a quest for knowledge and authentic cultural and natural experiences as the driving forces."
This time of year -- late spring in the Southern Hemisphere -- marks the beginning of Antarctic cruise season.
Contrary to erroneous reports, the ship is not operated by London-based Noble Caledonia though that line does offer expedition voyages on vessels such as the MV Explorer II.
We'll keep you posted.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief
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Ship Sinking in Antarctic
November 23, 2007